Sunday, July 05, 2009

Hong Kong Democratic Progress - 1st July Protest

It was a hot and sunny day on 1st July 2009. But the turnout for the 1st July protest march exceeds 30 thousand people (according to my estimate, the number should be about 40 to 50 thousands people). This is the largest protest march ever after the present Chief Executive Donald Tsang took over office.

Hong Kong is an interesting society where its residents are practical people who are calculative to the dot when it comes to business dealings. However, the other side of Hong Kongers is all encompassing, tolerant, compassionate and politically altruistic.

For example, although the organizers of this 1st July protest march have their specific slogans and agenda of pushing for universal suffrage for the political appointment of Chief Executive, but they do also allow different groups of people with different issues and demands to join their march.

Groups of people fighting for their different agenda joined the protests to make their voices heard. There are people who are fighting to retain their village from being acquired by developers.

There are people who fight to get their voices on environmental issues heard as well as preserving of landmark buildings from being demolished. There are also individuals putting up their own slogans and stories.

A young girl accompanied by her mother to protest against Environmental pollution

The most interesting part is that the younger generations are participating actively in these political activities. I am amazed at the level of participation by the young Hong Kongers in both the 4th June memorial service and the 1st July protest march.

They may be individuals or small group of people, putting up slogans, placards or even issuing their own (social-political) statements

A Public political statement made by the collective group of Hong Kong universities' student publications which includes the Hong Kong University Student Union, Hong Kong Chinese University student publication committee, Hong Kong City University etc.

On top of that, some of the youngsters in Hong Kong have taken to creative means of protest, by forming the Hong Kong Complaints Choir. This is a movement initiated by a Finnish organization which have grown internationally. Singapore, too, has one Singapore Complaints Choir but it was banned from public performance by the PAP government using a very lame excuse that there were foreigners in the choir.

Some individual youngsters get their hands on their semi-professional cameras to record down the happenings of the protest march, to be produced into video or news clips to be posted on the internet. I have interviewed one of the youngster and they told me that they have bought their second hand Panasonic camera set from China for the price of HK$7000! And they intend to edit the images into video clips which will then to be posted on the internet. This is part and parcel of grooming professional young citizen reporting.

Many people would think that Hong Kong is a all Chinese society but the truth is, it has many other races which includes the Europeans, Indians, Nepalese, Pakistanis etc. I have seen more other races participating the annual 1st July protest march in recent years. Apart from that, there were foreign maids and workers who were fighting for their rights and equal treatments under the law, particularly the minimum wage legislation.

At first glance, it would be counter-intuitive for Hong Kongers to allow these foreign workers or maids to ask for more pay or labor protection because it would mean that the huge middle class would have to pay more in terms of wages to their domestic maids.

But for the Democratic and Human Right fighters, they are fighting for a fair and just society and this would include foreign workers or maids contributing to their livelihood and economy.

They were given the chance to voice out their grievances on the stage provided by the organizers and in return, they presented a small performance of dance for the audience.

Furthermore, such platform allows them to attract media attention to their plight. In the following photo, a CNN correspondent has approached the leader of the Federation of Asian Domestic Workers for an interview and I believe they will make the first link up for future feature interview.

Such big political event could not be made possible without the contributions of various volunteers.

Every year, political parties and groups have recruited quite a number of party volunteers from such events like 4th June and 1st July gatherings. On top of that, they have also collected quite a substantial amount of donations from the public during these events by selling books, publications or plain soliciting donations.

On the other hand, such events wouldn't be possible without the contribution of the police force in maintaining order during the march. Although there were times whereby protesters exercise some of their civil disobedience tactic but the police has been very accommodating and tolerant in carrying out their duties.

Last but not least, Hong Kong won't be a successful, clean and efficient society without the group of diligent cleaners. The efficiency of the Hong Kong system could be seen by the kind of arrangement they have made even for such anti-government protests. Cleaners and road washing vehicles tailed the protest marchers and start to clear up rubbish so that the road could be opened immediately to other road users right after the last protesters left.

One of my friend called me up one day after the protest march to ask whether I was arrested by the police. I was surprised why he asked that. He said that Singapore Straits Time has reported that some protesters were arrested the day before. This is a gross mis-reporting. The 100 or so protesters were removed from the premise of government house which they planned to stay overnight in demand to have a dialogue with the Chief Executive Donald Tsang. They were forcefully removed from the premise but no one was arrested.

These are the minority of Hong Kongers that would go into Non-violent Civil Disobedience Action but generally speaking, the Hong Kong authorities are more tolerant towards them as long as there were no harm nor damage done to public interests.

I have painstakingly listed out some of the observations I have made in Hong Kong on their progress in becoming a truly open and democratic society for the reason that I believe Singapore can become one too.

There are quite a number of benefits from such development which may help Singapore solve some of the important issues that we are facing, National Identity.

I shall dealt with this issue in my next posting.

Goh Meng Seng

1 comment:

Springfield said...

I have been following this for quite some time in July, now I am wondering what has happened to this battle. Things like these are getting more common is Asia (I noticed), the same is currently happening in the Philippines and in South Korea.